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Mary Anne Reed PhD


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(Reprinted by Popular Demand)


     I had the great good fortune to grow up in Minnesota, born into a pretty healthy intact family and geographically close to much of my extended family. As the only daughter in the family I spent a lot of time with my mother, learning the skills and art of creating and maintaining a home. So...Christmas meant lots of fun in the cold and snow—sliding, skiing, ice skating—weeks of preparation, and lots of home and church centered traditions and rituals. I am grateful to have wonderful Christmas memories.

     What I did not fully understand until I had my own children is that somebody, most often a parent when there are small children in the family and usually the mother, has to “make Christmas.”  The celebration does not create itself . It can be wonderful fun, but it can also be a lot of work and often leads to a lot of stress. Christmas can also cost a lot of money.

As I have grown and the make-up of my family has shifted over the years, I came to realize how much control we can actually exercise over how we celebrate holidays. In 1994 Christmas occurred two days before my divorce was final and less than two weeks before my daughter’s wedding. Money and energy were both in short supply. I decided to ask my children, “Which, of all the Christmas traditions we have observed, is really important to you? What do you want to do? Which holiday foods are you most fond of?”  Then we planned our celebration. It was simple, fun, and within our financial means.

     As we began to get close to Christmas 2008 I felt the same inclination. The economic environment, plus the recent death of my mother, combined with my inner knowing about how much energy I had to put into planning and creating Christmas convinced me that we needed to once again step back and do something different. And then, Hallelujah! A suggestion came forward from my daughter-in-law. It was based on her elementary school experiences of Christmas in The Netherlands. This is what we did…

· On Thanksgiving day we each (including the grandchildren who are 5 and 2) put our “names” in a hat. We included on the small piece of paper three things about us or something we liked and three things we might enjoy receiving as gifts. Obviously, parents of small children filled out the paper for their offspring.

· We each drew one name and kept that name very secret!

· We agreed not to spend more than $50.00 per person.

· The gift was to be delivered at our Family Christmas celebration which is usually on the Eve of Christmas Eve. It was to:

· Be wrapped or delivered in a way that was representative of the uniqueness of the receiver

· Be accompanied by an original poem, song, or game.

     At our celebration, after champagne and appetizers, after dinner and before we shared dessert, after we had pulled Christmas “crackers” and sung Christmas Carols with our kazoos, we presented and opened our gifts. Some poems were sung, all were original, and most brought laughter and/or tears. The gifts were “right on the money” in more ways that one, and some of the forms of presentation truly inventive. The poems and photos will soon be saved in a Scrapbook—Christmas 2008. Christmas 2009 will be scrapbook number two! It turned out to be a gift worth claiming year after year after year.


     (Note:  2011, marked our 4th observance.  The grandkids were 8, 5 and 2, the creativity has not dried up, and the fun still abounds!  Try it!  You will be glad you did.)

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